Does Vocational Education Give a Happy Start and a Lousy End to Careers?

TitleDoes Vocational Education Give a Happy Start and a Lousy End to Careers?
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsKorber, M, Oesch, D
JournalLIVES Working Paper
Keywordsapprenticeship, earnings, employment, life course, specific skills, Switzerland, vocational education and training

Since the Great Recession, vocational training has been advocated as the solution against high youth unemployment. It gives workers a head start in the labor market and may thus lead to better careers. Yet vocational skills may also become obsolete sooner and leave older workers vulnerable to technological change. We address this issue by comparing earnings and employment over the life course for vocational and general education at the upper-secondary level. We do so for Switzerland, the OECD country with the highest share of youth undertaking vocational education and training (VET), using the Swiss Labor Force Survey 1991-2014 and the Swiss Household Panel. We find that employment prospects for older workers with VET are as good as those for workers with general education. However, general education is associated with higher earnings than VET once workers enter their thirties. There are strong gender differences: Among men, life-cycle earnings with VET exceed those of workers with general education, whereas among women, general education is associated with higher earnings.

Citation Key2153